Sponsored Renewals Program

This is a “secret” page — it’s not part of the site map, and it has a “noindex” tag to tell search engines not to include it in their listings. It’s meant to be information for Premium subscribers.
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What It’s About

The “Dotcom Recession” of 2001-2002 didn’t hit This is True very hard; by design, True’s income didn’t, and still doesn’t, depend on online advertising. Newsletters and web sites that did depend on advertising were hit hard in the crash, and many of the thriving properties during the “Dotcom Boom” died.

But a lot of readers suffered, with many subscribers losing their jobs (not just dotcom: there was collateral damage too), especially by late 2002, and they were faced with hard choices about where they spent their money. Understandably, most choose to put food and shelter on their priority list over “frivolous” things like newsletter subscriptions.

Sometimes a reader in such a position would send a really nice letter, and occasionally I would publish them. And that’s when the magic started happening: other readers who were secure in their jobs offered to help them.

At first I resisted requests for some sort of “fund,” but in October 2002, after the calls from readers got insistent, I agreed to set up a system to administer the fund. In the October 13th Premium edition, in a very short paragraph way down at the bottom of the issue, the program was very quietly announced as a way to help already-upgraded Premium subscribers who cannot renew due to temporary financial straits, whether it’s from a job loss, mounting medical bills, or other unforeseen circumstances. There is no requirement to pay it back; I simply ask them to “pay it forward in some way” when they are able.

I literally asked readers to “STOP!!” by the next week. There were not only enough to help everyone I knew of at that time, but there was enough left to take care of any others for months. Then the second part of the magic happened: a lot of those who were “sponsored” passed the favor on once they got back on their feet. Some bought one sponsorship for the pool, others bought several. One actually contributed ten. The result: there were enough sponsorships to take care of the readers who needed it for nearly four years — there wasn’t a call for more contributions until September of 2006! And that’s the last time I needed to ask: the same “echos” have lasted since, even as I’m updating this page in 2018.

How to Contribute

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a request for contributions! The fund is sustaining well, since people often contribute even when there hasn’t been a call for them. In fact, I haven’t asked for contributions since September of 2006 because there hasn’t been the need — readers have been quite generous.

I do always gladly accept “pay it forward” sponsorships from those who have been sponsored in the past, even though that is absolutely not a requirement: recipients are just asked to “pay forward” the favor in some way — any way they see fit — when they are able.

So that’s why there’s no need at this time. Since people regularly ask, the instructions are: just use the regular Premium subscription renewal page and simply note “Sponsored renewal” in the Comments/Special Instructions area, or otherwise make it clear, and they go into the pool.

If you wish to do more than one, you can change the quantity easily. Do any combination of 1- and 2-year renewals as you wish, but I mostly award one year renewals.

And thank you.

The Feedback

Here are just a few of the letters from sponsored readers posted over the years. Since this is a truly anonymous program, all names and locations have been withheld.

  • “How wonderful! I’ve missed This is True a great deal, but it has definitely been a tough year. Both [my husband] and I were out of work for over 6 months. He finally got a contract but it is ending in 1 week. I’ve been trying to start my own business building ponds and doing landscape lighting, since there aren’t any high tech jobs out there right now. PLEASE thank whoever offered to help out with a subscription. They’ll never know how much their kindness and generosity mean to me. Receiving your note and the TRUE Premium issue this morning has helped me feel less ‘abandoned’ and ‘all alone out there’.”
  • “I’m not sure who all I need to thank, but I am thankful. Since my son was diagnosed with autism we have been re-routing all of our pennies into therapy toys, special foods, educational activities and anything else that might help our son. You see, I believe the brain is a mysterious organ that can re-route pathways if they are damaged and this is what we are working for while my son is young. One of our budget cuts was unfortunately the Premium TRUE. It may seem odd but even this small act of kindness is so greatly appreciated that I really don’t know how to express it fully. True is a source of fun moments when sometimes it seems I don’t have much to smile about, as well as at times I shake my head and think, ‘Well, if an idiot made it in the world, my son should have no problem!’ Last and most appreciated, TRUE makes me think. Sometimes working with my son, I don’t get out of the home very much and TRUE helps to keep my perspective. Please tell your kind-souled readers that stepped up Thank You. I plan to return the favor someday when I am able.”
  • “I’m still tingling from the email about my subscription being renewed. I’ve started numerous emails trying to find the words to express my gratitude. I know how easy it can be to sit back and think that someone else will help out, or that no one knows me so it doesn’t matter if I don’t contribute. I’m ashamed to say I’ve been one of those people. Our China adoption pretty much wiped out our savings — but worth every single cent. Our daughter is our whole world and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I’m taking a year off work, but once I’m back I truly look forward to returning the kindness.”
  • “I logged on to read e-mail today and saw ”PREMIUM This is True in my inbox. My heart sank, because I knew something must have gone wrong and I was going to have to let you know so that you could rectify it. After reading your e-mail [saying why I was getting it], I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. It’s been a really hard year. I’ve just gone through a very difficult breakup & am taking care of my disabled mother. As you can imagine money is very tight. The Free This is True and the Free HeroicStories have been bright spots in my life — really helped me keep my head where it needed to be. The Premium subscription is that much more wonderful. To all who chipped in to cover the cost of the subscriptions, From my heart to yours: Namaste’ and thank you so very very much, you have touched a strangers heart and brought her to tears.”

I take the task of being the conduit between the readers very seriously, and carefully consider each case. Few actually ask for a contribution. Here’s an example of how it went one time. A reader responded to a renewal notice with:

  • “I regret that I will be unable to renew my subscription to ‘This is True’. It has nothing to do with your publication, I really enjoyed reading it each week. Unfortunately, there has been a series of tragic events in my family starting with the death of my oldest daughter. Money is very tight and between hospital and funeral costs, I am tapped out. Perhaps when things settle back down I will re-subscribe.”

I sent him a note of sympathy for his loss, and then added that I was assigning a sponsored renewal to him. He replied:

  • “I truly don’t know what to say. Thank you. The thought that people who don’t even know me or my family would do something kind like this is very heartwarming. I was lucky in many ways that I really got to know my daughter Samantha before she died. She had leukemia. So many of my friends also have teenage daughters and they are so distant and secretive. My daughter and I were very close and right up to the end she was certain that there wasn’t a problem in this world that her daddy couldn’t ‘make better.’ I couldn’t make this better. As you know, whenever you lose someone, you always feel helpless. Samantha died with dignity and courage. She was not afraid. I think I was afraid for both of us. She had written in a journal that I read after she died. She was so afraid that her dying would tear the family apart. She knew she was going to die but her thoughts were for the welfare of others. I only hope she knows how proud I am of her and how much I miss her. If you know who made the donation, please thank them for me and my family. They are right, the world does not have to suck. We must all try and help each other stand when we fall and heal when we are broken. It has been a difficult four months. I heal a little every day. Ironically, ‘This is True’ often shows me that no matter how messed up things here are, there is always a list in my email box every week of people who, for whatever reason, have it worse than me.”

That’s exactly the sort of person who I feel truly deserves a sponsorship: someone who figures someone else should get it, since surely they are worse off than he is — after he has experienced the biggest nightmare of parenthood.

So, to the many anonymous sponsors: thank you for giving me the opportunity to bring a little joy to readers who truly need it. Thank you for helping me show people that the world doesn’t have to suck — a reminder they get every week through terribly dark times. Thank you for reaching out to people who you don’t know when you don’t have to. In many, many cases, you’ve made a big difference in their outlook.

Because I’ve been there myself, I know when things are tight that $32 is a lot to spend on something “frivolous” — especially when you owe rent or need food. But during what can be a bleak time for people, they get a weekly reminder that the world isn’t really such a bad place, even if they have to go to the library to get online for that reminder. So again, thank you not just for helping others in this small but significant-to-them way, but also for allowing me the honor of being the conduit of your generosity.

Last, I debated about whether I should open this page up for comments, and decided to go ahead and do so. It’s fine for those who have contributed to simply sign “Contributor” in the “Name” field, and for recipients to sign “Recipient”; if neither, “Reader” will do. Please do include your real email address (only I see it) because it’s required to make a comment.

7 Comments on “Sponsored Renewals Program

  1. On the subject of True’s frivolity, and consequent non-necessity: Entertainment isn’t a useless thing. Just because reading True every week doesn’t help you pay the bills, that doesn’t mean it’s worthless.

    For comparison purposes, look at the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company during the two world wars. (Why do I pick them? Because I’m a big fan of Gilbert and Sullivan. 🙂 ) The company continued to perform right through the Great War and the Second World War, because the British people needed inexpensive entertainment. (Yes, their budgets were cut back, and the lack of building materials and carpenters meant that they could not make any new scenery – when the Ruddigore sets were bombed out, Ruddigore ceased to be in their repertoire – but they were able to perform, night after night.)

    I’m very much glad that this program exists. It’s just when things are worst that we most need something to read, chuckle at, think over. Thank you to all the people who keep it going, and also to Randy for organizing the anonymity of it, which encourages uptake. A worthy thing to do.

  2. Simply put, the sponsorship is a wonderful thing, an opportunity to provide service to others, and receive it when necessary.

    I’ve been in and out of premium membership over the years due to circumstances, but never asked for sponsorship. I my case it was as much an issue of time, and money, rather than forced circumstances.

    One of this days I’ll get off my duff and pay for the back issues – that was my largest regret – losing my entire archive to a corporate crash – during the times of non-premium membership – my archive kept me going. I always stayed on the free list, but the premium is so worth it.

  3. Randy – I thank you for your kind offer of a year gratise. Be assured that the gift will be “paid forward”. I am humbled by your generosity.

    It’s not my generosity: my involvement is just the administrative time to match the sponsors with the recipients. It’s your fellow Premium subscribers who were generous, and indeed they’ve been quite generous. -rc

  4. I’m not one that asks for charity, but rather volunteer or sponsor someone/some cause on a regular basis. From spending time with area runners, helping them train for various marathons, to the local anti-cruelty that I give my newspapers and money to People have always thanked me for my time, effort, and monetary donations and it has always given me that “warm and fuzzy” feeling. Thanks to this program i can finally understand and feel just HOW appreciative those on the receiving end are. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and will “pay it forward” as soon as possible. Thank you again!

  5. I have been a ‘True’ subscriber for so long, I can’t even remember when I started, and have enjoyed it EVERY WEEK. When renewal time came around this year, I was a bit hesitant to admit my financial challenges, but knew that you, Randy, and most all of the other ‘True’ readers out there are caring souls. Thank you so much for what you do, and for how you do it. The sponsorship renewal is so warmly appreciated.

  6. I was on very difficult times — and as others, I gave up ‘frivolous things’ for a period so I could get back on track. And then I got a present of a sponsored Premium Subscription; I was so surprised and tears welled up. I was determined to pay it forward as soon as I could. I count my blessings I have been able to finally do that; and feel equally as blessed that someone sponsored me when it was not possible for me to renew. There are truly caring and generous people in our world.

  7. I haven’t been a premium subscriber for very long because it’s always a struggle to decide if I can afford it every year. This year I just can’t.

    Thanks to the Sponsor Renewal Program I can continue to read the interesting, satirical, and outrageous stories of stupidity from around the USA and around the world. Whenever I feel bad about myself, I can just look at This is True, realize my name isn’t there, and know that I’m a little smarter than the rest of the world, even if I’m a little poorer. I hope I can do the same for another person some day.


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